Friday 26 February 2021

Trial of man accused of killing Nicky Verstappen in 1998 begins

Jos Brech is charged with abduction and manslaughter. Photo: Police issue

The man accused of abducting and killing 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in 1998 has told his trial that the boy was already dead when he found him.

Jos Brech is alleged to have snatched Nicky Verstappen from a summer camp in Brunssummerheide, Limburg, sexually assaulting him then killing him to conceal the crime. The boy’s body was found the next day a kilometre away.

Other than a brief statement during an earlier procedural hearing in which he denied having anything to do with Nicky’s disappearance, Brech has so far exercised his right to silence.

But on the opening day of his trial, the 57-year-old told the court that he had found the boy’s dead body on the heath and panicked because he had a previous history of offences involving young boys.

Brech claimed he had searched for a pulse, which explained why his DNA was found on Nicky’s body and underwear.

‘I didn’t know what else to do,’ he said in a recorded video message played to the court. ‘Report it to the police? Who would believe me?

‘I left as fast as I could and went home. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I went for a bike ride to clear my head. My thoughts were taken up with that child. The media, the news, the missing boy, still not found.

‘I have made wrong decisions that I can’t change. I have exercised my right to silence for a long time, which is why it’s good for me to tell my story now. The parents have the right to know.’

Unsolved

The case was unsolved for 20 years until a mass DNA profiling exercise in 1998 linked Brech to the crime via family members. Prosecutors say 27 traces of DNA on Nicky’s body and clothing match the suspect’s profile.

Brech is charged with possessing child pornography and qualified manslaughter, which refers to the act of killing a person to cover up another crime, in this case sexual abuse.

The prosecution case is likely to hang on the DNA evidence and the testimony of two witnesses who say they saw Brech riding his bike through Brunssummerheide with a boy on the back on the night of the kidnapping.

The development led to a Europe-wide search for Brech, who had been reported missing by his family in April 2018. He was tracked down to a remote area outside Barcelona where he was living in the wild, and has been held in custody ever since.

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